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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Thum, Ph.D., CCXP

Build Trust and Accelerate Revenue with Virtual Teams: 3 Strategies for Leaders

Communication is everything.

It's a familiar saying when we talk about what it takes to lead successful virtual teams. But you need more. Scholarly research has given us some interesting proof points lately that say trust matters just as much as communication when it comes to engaging employees and accelerating revenue.

What is just as important as communication? Trust.

Trust is a complex subject. We have learned it is critical when building lasting relationships with customers. But trust has an even deeper role to play for leaders, employees, and virtual teams.

Here are three takeaways from recent scholarly research on the "why" of building trust for virtual team leaders.

1. Trust is an antidote to team conflict and feelings of isolation.

Problematic relationships are a recurring reality at work. Nobody likes conflict. But research shows trust can be an antidote to team conflict.

Trust can help teams to get over misunderstandings more quickly. It can also help people get past feelings of losing control when teams go virtual. It can also reduce team members’ feelings of isolation when they work from home over long periods of time.

Authenticity and a personal touch can go a long way here. Leaders need to encourage participation from more reserved virtual team members, especially if they are new to the job and the team. Calling employees out to participate, with civility, of course, opens the door to trust-building for the employee, the leader, and other members of the virtual team.

Research shows when conflict happens, trust accumulated over time can help a team get over conflict more quickly. It can also reduce virtual team members' feelings of isolation.

2. Build trust as a two-way street.

We usually think about trust as being about how an employee feels about their manager. Employees need to trust their manager before they will fully engage with their colleagues, and in all the customer work that needs to be done. But that is only half the story.

Managers need to trust their employees, too. Leaders need to show they trust their teams by providing resources, tools, empowerment, and autonomy.

Unfortunately, though, leaders can fall short here. They can hesitate to give up control to their teams. Or, if trust isn’t well-developed, employees can interpret a manager’s gesture of empowerment as an attempt to offload their own work onto the employee.

3. Trust helps employees prepare for change.

Organizational change is a constant in business. Resistance to change is not an option because resistance puts organizations at risk. However, before change can happen, human beings must feel psychologically and behaviorally prepared for change.

How can teams prepare for organizational change? Enter trust.

When change-related communications come from trusted leaders and coworkers, research shows those messages carry more influence than messages that come from people who are not perceived as trustworthy.

Sure, leaders can try to force change on employees. But hesitation and resistance are inevitable unless employees understand the change, trust the change, and feel confident that they can be successful in a changing environment.

Teams that trust each other make the sale.

It has been argued that trust is the most important ingredient for creating an organization that thrives. It has also been said that there is no substitute for face-to-face communication when it comes to building trust with teams at work.

However, virtual and remote teams are here to stay. Leaders and team members must learn how to understand, build, and sustain trust in new ways.

Teams that trust each other are known to be high-performing, effective, and successful. These are the teams that ring the proverbial cash register. Study after study proves it. That is why building internal trust with your virtual teams is critical.

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